Eddie Dempsey critique is fine, but withdrawing support for workers over him is telling on yourself

Eddie Dempsey speaks at a rally.
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Twitter centrists have finally found a reason to justify why they won’t support something that, in truth, they were never going to support anyway. This time the ‘something’ is organised workers. The reason is the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union’s Eddie Dempsey.

Footage of Dempsey, who serves as an assistant general secretary in the RMT, was tweeted on Wednesday 31 August. In it, Dempsey laments the takeover of working class institutions (like the Labour party) by liberals:

I can tell you what, whatever you think about people that turn out for Tommy Robinson demos or any other march like that, the one thing that unites them people, beyond whatever other bigotry that’s going on, is their hatred of the liberal left.

He continued:

And they are right to hate them, they are correct. Because they are the people who’ve seen their industries taken away, who’ve captured their Labour Party, and who are now talking to them like they’re the scum of the earth.

‘Blatant fascist’?

A group of centrist accounts used the footage to claim Dempsey was himself some sort of Tommy Robinson figure. One even accused him of being a “blatant fascist”:

Read on...

Another Twitter user suggested he was using tropes from the “UKIP playbook”:

Another used the footage to attack the Enough is Enough campaign, a coalition of unions and a handful of Labour MPs fighting for better conditions for working class people:

‘Waitrose Twitter’ melts down

But not everyone was convinced by the latest centrist meltdown. Many seem to think the footage is just a pretext for well-off pseudo-lefties to withdraw support for working class people, i.e., trade unions. This support, some say, never really existed anyway:

One Twitter user called centrists out for never having any intention of backing workers, saying they should stop wasting people’s time:

Another pointed out that pretending to be very, very sad about the ideological purity of figures on the Left was out of place among the people whose political heroes destroyed Iraq:

The same Twitter user said he could come to his own conclusions about Eddie Dempsey without the help of “white leftists”:

Bad faith

Bad faith and centrist politics go hand-in-hand, and the Twitter centrist version of this is the most virulent of all.

Eddie Dempsey is a public figure and a senior trade unionist at a moment of working class uprising. He can, will, and should be critiqued for what he says and does. However, a fair-minded interrogation is not what seems to be happening in this instance.

As we’ve since in recent years, the support from ‘Waitrose Twitter’ for working class people is, at best, highly conditional. It’s nearly always purely about optics.

At the slightest breeze, their support will evaporate. The working class doesn’t need friends like this. By all means question Dempsey’s views, but if you actually care about workers, the answers should have no bearing on your support for the RMT, Enough is Enough, or any similar organisation.

Unless, that is, you never really had any solidarity – and if that’s the case, good riddance.

Featured image via RMT Television, cropped to 770 x 403. 

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  • Show Comments
    1. I haven’t read or listened to the whole of Eddie Dempsey’s speech, but the quote in the article doesn’t suggest he has racist views to me. It seems he is simply saying that he understands why EDL supporters hate the liberal left. (I mean, he does call them ‘bigots’.)

      Whilst I may disagree that it’s the liberal ‘left’ that has impacted the rights and lives of EDL supporters and others, Dempsey appears to be aligning himself with these supporters on that basis only, and he doesn’t say he agrees with their racist views in any way.

      Am I missing something?

      Unless I am missing something, in a way, the misunderstanding is being further promoted by The Canary, and just goes to underline the point made in a Twitter comment above, that a conversation about it is impossible on the left.

      1. KatieS, I have the feeling that the Canary put all the information needed in the article, and left it up to the readers to be intelligent. If there is one criticism, it’s that it’s SOOOO obvious to Joe, he may have tried too hard as he saw it to be ‘balanced’ – mainly, imo, because its simply funnier that way.

        Just recall the utter political collapse of the Bliarites when they stood independently, with every fanfare of corporate media that they were “brave” for “standing up to Corbyn’s Stalinism!”.

        The look on Chuka Umunna’s face when the results came back from the voting public in that constituency said it all.

        If Corbyn set up a new political party, out of Labour, how would it do? Moderately well.
        If Starmer set up a new political party, out of Labour, how would it do? Oooh, clear landslide, obviously.. 😉

        The funny thing is, ONLY these Centrist, fiscally-rightwing neoliberal forked-tongue speakers, will actually be offended by it. Everyone else is deeply amused – and that’s 90% at least. Even Tories and the far-right are actually amused, no matter what theatrical spin they put on it.

        Everyone does hate those glib, two-faced, frankly mediocre pro-global-corporatocracy lying coke-heads.

        Did the Canary really need to point that out to us? 😉

    2. I AM a left-Liberal.
      I also shop at Waitrose.
      I still agreed with nearly everything Dempsey said.
      Funnily enough the Waitrose staff-member I had a 5min chat with last week would hae agreed with Dempsey too.

      This is my only criticism.

      Waitrose is at least a partial worker-owned cooperative. Lets not turn it into a kicking horse for the benefit of Trash Corporate Tesco et al.
      Its prices are higher, because workers get a much better deal, which also means certain strata’s cannot really afford to shop there – that is simply because wages and incomes are far too low. If all C2, D, Es got an immediate tripling of income, many would then choose to shop there, because it is a nicer experience for everyone concerned, staff and customers and suppliers. And don’t we like worker-ownership?

      But, for memetic purposes, there does need to be a ‘label’…. how about:

      Globalist, Lying, Insincere, Bastard Scum, or “GLIBS” for short?

      I’m a liberal in Theory, I’ll be voting Green unless there’s a new better option. The Green leaders are good leaders, Starmer should take a lesson or two. Starmer is too glib.

      1. The article is not about what Dempsey said, it’s about how it has been deliberately misinterpreted by the centrists to distance themselves from a movement that is gaining ground among the public, and that seems to scare them.
        As to Dempsey’s comments, they make perfect sense to me and in no way suggest that he supports the likes of Robinson. To suggest that he does is a classic bad faith argument by centrists who cannot seem to make their case without discrediting the radical left. See previous 4 years of attacks on Corbyn from liberal ‘leftists’ prior to 2019.

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